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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 09.15.06
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

It's a doctor-patient thing, eh?

Here's something maybe you didn't know: a referral for blood work is no longer good after more than two years.

Why this should be I'm not sure. If the doctor wanted to check your serotoblerone levels when he saw you nearly three years ago, he's probably still going to want to see them now, if not more so.

Or maybe people are like cars. When you reach your 40-year mileage, you have to get not just your serotoblerone checked but also your cytoramalamadingdong.

My local CLSC broke the news to me last week when I brought in a crumpled blood work sheet dated December 17, 2003 and said, "Is this still good?"

I felt like the five-year-old who plunks a pile of change on the counter and says, "How much do this buy?"

Now I have another appointment with my doctor who will likely scold me and remind me that once you hit 40 it's important to have regular checkups and get your postrapedic periodically palpated.

I know, I know, I will tell him, but I've had several very excellent excuses that prevented me from getting my blood work done these past thirty-three months, the main one being that my busy schedule leaves very little room for passing out.

I don't have a family doctor per se but I have managed to see the same one at the CLSC at least three times. In rural Quebec, that's considered a long-term doctor-patient relationship. It also means he knows more intimate details about me than pretty much anyone.

This got me thinking about doctors, particularly small-town doctors. Perhaps one of the reasons there are so few of them is that it really must be quite socially awkward.

Imagine knowing the most gruesome details, say, of someone's horrible infection and, worse, how she contracted it, and then you run into that person at your kid's school helping herself to the spinach dip. That's got to be an "ewww!" moment, even if you do have a medical degree.

Plus, a doctor has to keep all this information confidential. In a similar way, I think it may be one of the reasons Catholic priests are celibate. Imagine a priest coming home to his spouse after a long day at work:

"Hi, honey. How was confession?"

"Whew. The things I heard today!"

"Like what?"

"Like… oh wait, I can't tell you."

Over time, resentment would grow, the spouse would start keeping secrets of her own, which would lead to marital stress, which would lead to divorce, which is against Catholic doctrine… oh, such a mess it would be!

But back to doctors and patients: the situation may actually be more awkward for the latter. You're supposed to tell your doctor everything. You can get away with this in the city, where the chances of doctor and patient running into each other are virtually nil. But in small towns, everyone knows everyone. Doctor and patient can't avoid each other.

You run into each other at the grocery store and all you can think is, "He's seen me naked."

It's hard to develop friendships with this kind of shared detail.

I know a bit how this feels. When I was working for the newspaper, people were reluctant to open up to me. "Now don't go putting that in the paper," they would say half-jokingly. My job kept people on their guard and any possible friendships at arm's length.

Or maybe they just thought I was a jerk.

At any rate, I'll be empathizing with my doctor when I see him in a couple of weeks but we won't be playing golf any time soon.

And what exactly will I be discussing with him? You don't want to know.

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